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by Aman Singh Das | May 19, 2009


Is your company suffering from Detroititis? A term coined byGary Hamel, author of The Future of Management and writer of a recently started management blog, Management 2.0 on TheWall Street Journal, is more than anything else, a 21st centuryconcept. It pertains to companies who fail to visualize that today’s customersdemand appeal and finesse in products and not just low cost and usage.

While Mr. Hamel exemplifies histheory with the example of Apple’s introduction of the first Mac, how does thesame theory apply to smaller firms and all the companies out there where CEOsare struggling to keep an even balance sheet and support the new mantra of“Flat is the new up?” Two weeks ago Vault CEO Erik Sorenson wrote about how2009 has already resulted in six CEO ousters, and at the time he posted theblog, it had been a little over two weeks into the New Year. You can read thecomplete article here.

It goes without saying thatsurviving the current economy is going to remain a challenge in the short term,stimulus package or not. With this realization behind us, how do CEOs and theirteam of executives continue to drum up motivation not only among their team,but also their audience and customer base? There are a few simple ways of doingthis:

1)     Management 2.0: Very similar to the appeal Web 2.0 carries, Management2.0 dictates that chief execs modernize their managing style and adapt themselvesto not only a much savvier generation of users, but also an aggressive demandfor neatly packaged and quick information. Management 2.0 means interactingopenly with employees and customers, gauging their demands in layman termsbefore introducing a product, realizing that just because a product is costeffective and produces a usability, it isn’t enough anymore for it to have agood market.  Ease of use, appeal,intuitiveness and looks are important today more than ever. In summary, get outof the corner office and live and breathe with the consumers, even if it meanssitting as part of the open-floor-plan office. Shed the corner, grasp thecenter.

2)     Vaccinate for Detroititis: Try to keepyour products clean, simple and easy to understand. Whether you deal insoftware, hardware, media products, financial bonds, investment options or moreintangible goods like career and professional services. Users, especially inthe online world, will gravitate and be willing to buy an interactive andintuitive model than a cheaper, chunkier and harder to navigate one. Forexample, if you are in the market to find a cost-effective and highly efficientjob search tool, it is more than likely that you will punch in your credit cardinformation for a service that works with your specific keywords, remembersyour searches, allows you to search by various options and shows you the jobposting without too many clicks and navigational messages. Websites that askyou to view an ad or submit your resume before previewing the actual jobrequirements work counter-intuitively and hence lose customers in the longterm. So emphasize design, not just usability and cost, and keep your teamaware of the product goals. What the market demands must be in alignment withwhat your team is building.

3)     Be the BMW of your product: The factthat Detroit is currently in a crisis quantifies most efficiently why thequality of a product is far more important than just its cost. For the mostpart, defectors of General Motors et al say that the American auto industry hassurvived as long as it has because of American patriots who refuse to driveJapanese or German and not necessarily because Detroit has consistentlymanufactured quality vehicles. Recognize the level of your product and takeadvantage of the current downturn to quietly pull your product up a few notchesin quality and attractiveness.

4)     Employee Incentive: Once you’ve coveredall the bases on your product’s attractiveness, it’s time to rank up yourteam’s morale. With layoffshappening all around us on a daily basis, with chances being that your companyhas had at least one round if not more, it might be the best time to show yourteam some transparency. Hold meetings with small groups and encouragequestions, be honest but don’t be an SEC filing. You don’t want to boggle mindswith data, but you do want to give them directional advice; ask for ideas toincrease revenue, you never know who in the team might have a brilliant unexploredavenue for revenue; assure your employees that they will be enablers insurviving a tough year with you, not the disablers while you fight the marketalone in your office. Employee incentives don’t always have to be monetary innature; an honest talk can do wonders for employee confidence and a moraleboost.

While the above are but a fewsimple pointers, they can go far in retaining your most precious resource intrying times: your human capital. If your services/products are catering tomarket demand and your team is on the same page as you and your company’sbalance sheet, you will not only survive 2009, you might even emerge a winner.


Filed Under: Workplace Issues